A funeral and a celebration: grim clouds over Dalian

Feature Story - 2010-07-27
I arrived in Dalian on the day of the funeral for firefighter Zhang Liang, who drowned beneath the thick crude when his crew jumped into the ocean – without safety gear – to attempt, in vain, to fix an underwater pipe.

Fishing boats cut through oil sheen at Dalian fishing port, where oil scooped from the sea is ferried for storage.

I arrived in Dalian on the day of the funeral for firefighter Zhang Liang, who drowned beneath the thick crude when his crew jumped into the ocean - without safety gear - to attempt, in vain, to fix an underwater pipe. Our lead photographer, Jiang He, who by now has reached legendary status globally for capturing the final seconds of Zhang's life, continued to cover the very emotional moments of this oil spill disaster.

 

Colleagues described how over 30,000 people lined the streets of Dalian to honor Zhang. And judging from Jiang He's photos, there were many outpourings of grief for his untimely death, at the age of 25. People talked about whispers of anger from Dalian residents and firefighters against the corporations responsible for this tragic human and environmental disaster. And of their utter callousness: in the evening of the same day, a fancy celebratory dinner was held in one of Dalian's classiest hotels for the leaders of Dalian PetroChina. A large banner with grammatically incorrect Chinese welcomed them to the "fire rescue live event."

Dalian is known for its seafood as much as its beaches (not that they're particularly magnificent - it's just there's very few decent beaches in northern China). So to complete the sarcasm, the fishing port of the city has been turned into a large storage yard of oil recovered from the sea and beaches. Thousands of fishing boats come in and out of the port delivering barrels of oil, which are then trucked to another location. The foul stench of fish that once ruled the port is now replaced by the acrid smell of oil and grime.

By late afternoon, smog and dark clouds enveloped the city, putting the final touch on the prevailing mood of the day: it's just plain grim.

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